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Toasted Skin Syndrome: Laptop Addicts Beware

By Jason Beahm on October 06, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Note to self: sitting with a hot battery on my lap for hours at a time is a bad idea. In fact, demotolgists say, it can cause "toasted skin syndrome," a form of skin damage. Further, a medical report found that men who used laptops on their laps face a decrease in sperm production, potentially leading to infertility. Yikes!

The story profiled a law student from Virginia who had a mottled skin condition on her leg. Dr. Kimberly Salkey learned that the student worked with a laptop on her legs for six hours a day. The battery tested at 125 degrees, hot enough to cause skin damage after long exposure.

The damage from toasted skin syndrome is similar to cases when patients overuse heating pads and other devices that are not hot enough to burn, but can cause permanent skin darkening. In the most serious cases, it could theoretically lead to skin cancer. The New York Times notes that the user manuals of Apple, Hewlett Packard and Dell warn against placing laptops on laps or exposed skin for extended periods due to risk of burns.

I'm sure that some will be shocked to hear this kind of news, yet should we really be surprised that resting a computer on your lap for several hours at a time is bad for you? It isn't my job to lecture you, but these kinds of cases are worthy of a reminder: use common sense. Poor posture combined with a hot battery on your lap is not a recipe for good health. If you are going to use a laptop on your lap, limit it to extremely brief sessions, 15 minutes or less, or get a heat shield. The rest of the time, try sitting at a proper table with good posture--your body will thank you.

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